I spent the better part of this morning paging through hundreds of recipes from my mother’s life long collection. It is quite the catalog of work and spans several decades, even a few photo copies of hand written works dating all the way back to my great grandmother’s collection of the 1930′s and 40′s. In a blog post from earlier this year I laid out the “Resolution of Recipes” idea, essentially my New Year’s resolution, which is to publish a modest family cookbook as an ode to my late mother’s passion for cooking and the powerful joy that it brought to her and the countless recipients of her wonderful, thoughtful meals. This enjoyable task of watching the ebb and flow of my mother’s cooking methods, lifestyle changes, family dynamics and meal planning through the eyes of the recipe collection has been enlightening to say the least. The newspaper clippings, food manufacturer labels, magazine articles, index cards, receipts from travel destinations, national brand advertisements, pocket notepad, recipe binder, letters from her friends, family heirloom photocopied recipes, and even some notes from my siblings make up the ingredients of this community meal history.
In her early days as a homemaker, all of the recipes were hand written, from scratch creations, some coming from her grandmother’s collection and a few dear friends. These friends, like mom, were women in their mid twenties during the early 1970′s, experimenting with new meals and various recipe concoctions utilizing their husbands and relatives as the test audience. Julia Child and Betty Crocker were in en vogue as the reigning recipe queens of the day. The industrial food movement was gaining enormous influence across the nation as smaller food manufacturers’ brands were being purchased by large corporate interests and marketed heavily in every popular women’s publication of the day. This is where the Johnston’s original “Ready Bake” pie crust becomes Keebler and increasingly the recipe collection turns to a lot of cutout, quick preparation type guides provided by the likes of Kraft, Borden, Bakers, Hershey’s, Jell-O, Campbell’s, and Pillsbury amongst others. Makes sense too, as she moved into the 1980′s with 2 small children, less time and undoubtedly a smaller budget, the day-to-day meals had to be manageable in amongst the rigors of schedules. The from scratch dishes became more and more of a focus at the holidays and special occasion meals.
The family vacations of the 1990′s brought about recipes that were hand written on the back of Disney World Hotel receipts, B&B recipes, NYT magazine recipe reviews and the first email recipe copies found in the collection sent from those same girlfriends of the 70′s, whom now proved to be lifelong culinary friends. With the advent of the new millennium the recipe collection shows signs of my youngest siblings influence with recipe copies from their favorite restaurants and TV cooking shows. Mom’s recipes are no longer handwritten but rather shiny, printed card stock editions from various cookbook clubs and online resources.
I have quickly discovered today that assembling this collection of recipes, into a cookbook format that accurately chronicles and gives credit where due, is going to be a pleasurable trip down memory lane……and I am starving!